Lady For a Day (1933)
“You believe in fairy tales don’t yah?”
So says Warren William starring here as Dave the Dude. From director Frank Capra comes this feel good tear jerker produced by Harry Cohn and Columbia Studios. With a story by Damon Runyon we can expect some wonderful nicknames for our ensemble cast including Missouri Martin, Harry the Horse, Happy McGuire and Shakespeare.
May Robson stars here as Apple Annie. Annie is more or less a “bag lady” who makes a living walking the streets selling apples to the likes of Ward Bond as a patrolman on horseback. It seems Annie had an illegitimate child who she sent overseas years ago to be raised and educated away from the stigma she would have grown up with as the daughter of an unwed mother. Through frequent letters to her daughter played by Jean Parker, Annie has set herself up for a huge fall. Her daughter has come to believe that Annie is a well to do society lady with a rich husband and resides at the Hotel Marberry in New York.
Panic sets in for Annie when she gets word that her daughter is engaged to the son of a Count and they are all on their way to New York City. It would seem that the Count wants to ensure that his son is marrying into a family of breeding and wealth. From here local gangster/gambler Warren William steps up to give Annie the greatest gift of her life. William has always considered Annie his lucky charm when it comes to his gambling and business ventures. He goes about setting her up in the Hotel she claimed to be living in as well as supplying her with Guy Kibbee. Kibbee fits right in acting as her well to do husband. In reality he is a local pool shark called The Judge. Kibbee steals every scene he is in when there is a pool table near by. He is a hustler extraordinaire.
Things get complicated as is to be expected with William and his minions continuing the charade while at the same time running afoul of the local police force. Joining in the fun is Williams girl played by Glenda Farrell as Missouri Martin and his second in command Ned Sparks. Sparks is hilarious as a monotone gangster with a knack for off handed remarks.
Fairy tales have a way of working themselves out and this best picture nominee is no different. The film also received a nomination for best director (Capra) as well as actress for Robson. Capra would return to this story in 1961 remaking it as A Pocketful of Miracles with Bette Davis and Glenn Ford to less success.
As for the timing of this film, there are some scenes that would not have been filmed had the “code” come into effect prior to it’s release. Farrell’s nightclub act includes the racy song “I’m so hot I’m smoking – I want a man.” Robson pointing out that she had a child out of wedlock would never have made it to the final print. Nor would a funny scene with William and Farrell. When Farrell shows up with her beauticians to clean up Robson there is a man in the group. When William objects to his presence Farrell emphatically tells Warren “It’s alright Dude…It’s ALRIGHT! Warren quickly realizes that the man is gay and mimics his French name. Pierre.
This was my monthly challenge from movie pal Kristina over at Speakeasy and as usual she has opened my eyes to a film I may not have taken the time to enjoy had she not sent it my way. As a fan of character actors there are many to appreciate here along with our leading stars. Now head on over to Kristina’s and check out her Mad Movie Challenge starring Lee Marvin.